Virabhadrasana: The Benefits and Challenges of Warrior Poses


There are a lot of yoga poses. Some we do in most classes. Others we do intermittently depending on the level and style of yoga we practice. It’s a good bet you do at least one variation of virabhadrasana most times you practice. The group of poses known as warrior are unique both in the number of variations available and the benefits of each of these poses.

Warrior poses—virabhadrasana in Sanskrit—are named for the Hindu god Virabhadra. You’re probably familiar with the three warriors aptly named warrior one, warrior two, and warrior three. But the list of warrior poses doesn’t end there. Peaceful warrior (also called windswept), humble warrior, and flying warrior are some other variations you may encounter.

What to Love About Virabhadrasana

Warrior poses have many benefits, both individually and as part of a flow in vinyasa classes. In fact, if you did nothing but warrior poses, you would be able to work on power, strength, grounding, balance, and gracefulness all at once!

Here are some other things warrior poses can do for you:

  • Help boost your confidence.
  • Improve your mood.
  • Give you energy.
  • Connect you with your life force—the breath
  • Help you go with the flow.

Virabhadrasana Variations

Let’s take a closer look at some of the more practiced variations of warrior poses.

Warrior One/Virabhadrasana One

For this pose, start with a lunge and your hips facing squarely forward. Stretch your arms to the sky if it’s comfortable. (If not, you can try a different arm variation). Plant your back foot at a 45-degree angle. The goal is to expand the chest, so you can take deep breathes. Warrior one is great for the shoulders and back as well.

Humble Warrior/Baddha Virabhadrasana

This variation is a bow to a higher power. In humble warrior, start from warrior one or two and clasp your hands behind your back. Bend over the front knee and stretch your arms toward the sky behind you with your hands still clasped. The pose takes a considerable amount of strength, which may be why it is named “humble.”

Warrior Two/Virabhadrasana Two

Warrior two is probably the most powerful variation of the pose. There’s a fierceness associated with it. For this pose, take a wider stance for your lunge and place your back foot parallel to the back edge of your mat. Stretch your arms out in each direction, as if two friends were trying to pull you apart. Gaze over your front hand (fiercely if you like). According to B.K.S. Iyengar, warrior two is a gateway to challenging forward bends. It also strengthens the legs muscles and the mind.

Windswept (Reverse) Warrior/Viparita Virabhadrasana

Windswept or reverse warrior may also be called peaceful warrior. When your fierceness reaches its peak in warrior two, you can move into this pose by bending a bit backward and taking your front arm over your head. In this pose, you may feel power and vulnerability at the same time. It’s a wonderful pose to practice when you need to let go.

Warrior Three/Virabhadrasana Three

Warrior three fosters courage and balance. With one leg lifted off the ground and straight behind you, parallel to the floor, you’ll need a strong core to stay in the pose. Your arms can reach straight ahead or be clasped behind your back.

If you’re a virabhadrasana fan, which is your favorite variation? Which one challenges you most? (Remember the poses we resist are often the ones we can get the most benefit from.)

Share your thoughts on warrior poses below!

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Maria Kuzmiak

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